I graduated from Brighton’s Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics BA in 2010, and then slowly built up my own business, making and selling ceramics. My work had become quite commercial; I was doing trade shows and trying to get my work into shops, but selling and mass-producing wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to make work that was more experimental and more sculptural, one-off pieces. That was my main motivation for coming to the Royal College of Art.
I was also working as a technician in the Plastics department at Brighton, and teaching ceramics. Teaching is an important part of my practice, and I still teach regularly at the Camden Arts Centre. I still have my studio in Elephant & Castle and get involved with the open studio events there, and I have my commercial range happening in the background, which is how I’m paying my way through the Master’s. In my first term, I thought I could continue to run my own business and do my MA – but I was wrong. It was a period of coming to terms with the fact that I’d come to do an MA because I wanted the commercial work to take less precedence within my practice. It was hard to let go, after so many years of building up the business.
Just before I started at the RCA, I was awarded some business mentoring through the Fashion and Textile Museum, and that really helped me in the first and second term. They asked a lot of questions about where my business and my practice were heading, and that was really valuable in working out what I wanted to do. They reassured me that I wasn’t throwing all my contacts away, and I could pick them up again, and they helped me identify the most important customers, such as Liberty. Once I knew what my priorities were, I could cut things right back, only supply to a few shops, and really concentrate on being in the studio here.
A Master’s level qualification was required for various things I wanted to apply for, and the RCA was the best place to do it. The RCA was my only option; if I was going to do an MA, I wanted to do it here. A large part of that motivation was seeing people graduate from the course and knowing how dramatically their work had changed.
Starting the programme was really exciting. We had a few weeks of workshops and finding out where everything is, learning some new skills. It isn’t only people with backgrounds in ceramics who attend the programme now; in my year, there are architects and product designers, for example. They’re given the opportunity to catch up and learn new skills, whereas I could build up skills and learn new ways to do things. There was so much information to absorb.
For the first project, we had to select an object from The Victoria and Albert Museum and respond to that. I just used the opportunity to learn as much as I could, get into the workshops and try as many different things as possible. The second project was about food, and I used that to get into the cold glass workshops and learn to use all the machines there. It felt important to make use of being here and having all the equipment. I ended up making a film of the objects I’d made, and the film somehow became more important; that was really interesting because it was completely different to any way I’d worked before, and will definitely be something I want to pick up and continue next year.
Over the summer, I’ve been writing my dissertation, which is about landscape and imagination. Though the writing is a challenge, I’m really enjoying the research; I’m mostly drawing on references from literature, including nature writing like Robert Macfarlane, and Rebecca Solnit. One of the best things I’ve read is by Chinese-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, who describes space as an area that allows movement, and place as a pause within that movement. It all ties in with what I want to be doing in the studio next year, thinking about human mark-making on the landscape, and how to represent that pause in ceramics.
"A large part of that motivation was seeing people graduate from the course and knowing how dramatically their work had changed."